Getting the Peregrine off the Ground Pt 2: The incubation of the Peregrine Palette AKA R&D

April 3, 2017

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Kakwirakeron Ross Montour

 Peregrine Falcon

One day back in 2014 as I was painting in my studio I was startled by a loud thump emanating from my gallery window. At first I wondered whether someone had thrown  a rock or perhaps even a potato against my window so I hurried to see if I might catch sight of the culprit. To my shock and surprise, I found myself face-to face with a rather discombobulated Peregrine falcon. I have to say that I was nearly as stunned as he was. Yes, I can tell the difference between the males and females of the species. I knew that birds often collide with windows mistaken for skies that were not and I also knew that Peregrine falcons stoop for their prey at at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour.  Had my disoriented avian friend fallen victim to his own chase or was he a messenger, a herald of what was to come?

Of course, during the moments of that incident I really didn’t think that deeply about it in quite the way I am in this moment. Yet, I have found that life is funny that way. In 2014, the renovations of my studio and gallery had only recently been completed and I was enjoying a dream come true.

 Painting in the studio a la Vermeer’s The Art of Painting and struggling with a traditional kidney shaped palette. 2013.

As dreams go painting in a beautiful studio is one thing. Running a gallery was quite another, especially given my location. It didn’t work out as I’d hooped yet I have no regrets about having given it a try. Between my opening of Rapid Water studio – Gallery I got to paint with some really cool guys – Eric Manella who along with his wife Alana Benham own and operate Atelier de Bresoles in Montreal’s Old Port section, Steven Rosati a great Canadian portrait painter and one of Eric’s students, Eduardo Simões Fernandes. No doubt we shall soon have another paint date.

As wonderful as that was I started to feel restless. I had commissions for portraits and other paintings. Sometime in the spring and summer of 2016 I started to think about what possible projects my assistant Jason Vallieres and I might possibly get into to segue down an alternate path. Jason’s parents had recently moved to London, Ontario and his father left him a treasure trove of wood working tools. At first we thought about making easels that we could sell. We looked at making Studio easels and pochade boxes but that was something we weren’t ready to get into right away. Sometime in the late fall we were talking and I said we ought to do something, that something being the designing and tweaking of a finely crafted wooden palette that was comfortable to use, well balanced and tastefully yet functionally shaped. I had previously seen and thought about purchasing a palette from one of the boutique palette makers. They all had the idea of producing ergonomic palettes. I looked at at the pictures on the various websites, even tried one on for size, yet I came away with the audacious thought that I could improve on the design – build a better mousetrap as the adage goes.

All through November and December of last year Jason and I work on our project. I drew all kinds of variations and styles, some larger, some smaller and others of a medium size. I tweaked the curves while Jason scaled them up as patterns on foam core sheets. Sometimes I would say we ought to maybe trim this down, only to find the idea I’d thought was good wasn’t so great. So Jason would reattach pieces to the foam cores boards. The one concept we grabbed hold of and held fast to was that all of the palettes designs needed to start with a direct line relationship from the crook of the elbow to the thumb-hole. The measurement of that line was maintained as an average for all of the variations we produced and was the point of balance for every one of those designs.

Next, we set about cutting our templates out of mdf sheets and from there produced a number of different sizes and shapes fashion from 1/4 inch Baltic birch. Our first thought was to finish the palettes with a mixture of tung oil and Orangine. That was a four-day process and while they looked okay, we decided we wanted to try a different finishing approach. Rather than deciding to immediately moving in that direction with all of the palette designs we opted to focus our efforts on the model which would ultimately be our introductory flagship model instead.

Before we arrived at the palette we now are selling we shopped for different possible stain colors, sta rting with looking at more traditional neutral mid-value browns. While shopping for those a grey stain caught my eye although I wasn’t entirely convinced that grey was the way to go. Back in the shop I suggested grey might work fine if the stain would produce a mid value grey color while maintaining the beauty of the wood grain. All this while I had been toying with and literally dreaming up different names that had a cultural sound, something that might hearken to our Indigenous backgrounds. I actually did dream of one logo which would have had the palette be a dream-catcher and given the name ‘Dream-scaper or Dream-sketcher. Happily, as soon as I saw the birth of the first grey stained palette it struck me like that herald who struck my window in 2013. The light bulb in my brain clicked on and I announced to Jason that the name of our palette had struck me like a bolt from the sky and thus the Peregrine Palette was born. Now you tell me was this coincidence or synchronicity? I choose the latter and it is my deepest hope that you will choose to paint with a Peregrine. When you do I am certain you will enjoy it for a lifetime of painting with our very best to you.

Niawen kowa/Thank you very much

Kakwirakeron Ross Montour/ Jason Vallieres.

  http://www.peregrinepalettes.com

The Peregrine Has Taken Flight

Getting the Peregrine off the Ground Pt 1

March 25, 2017

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Kakwirakeron Ross Montour

Sekon, skennen kowa ken, (Greetings, Is all well with you?) and welcome to our site and to our blog.  I thought that a good way to introduce folks to Peregrine Palettes would be by telling you all a little bit about myself, where I was born and live, as well as how the Peregrine palette came into existence.

As the late, great Sam Cooke once sang, I was born by a river in a little town, that river being the mighty St Lawrence river in the village of Kahnawake.  Kahnawake, which means the place ‘by the rapids’ has been a continuously occupied Mohawk settlement since the mid-1600s. Founded by the Jesuit order as a mission settlement for Indigenous Catholic converts, Kahnawake and its people have always been entrepreneurial in spirit. Even prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Mohawk people and their fellow Iroquois nations were involved in trade. In the 1600s the medium of exchange was fur and my ancestors played key roles in the fur trade. Many of our people acted as guides to the coureur des bois and voyageurs as we were well schooled in the waterways and trails of this continent. During that period, Kahnawake also was the site of a major repair and manufacture facility for the large trade canoes or as they were also known rabaska. These rabaska were the freighters of the fur-trade era shipping supplies and trade items to the great trading outposts of Hudson’s Bay in northern Quebec and Fort William in the northwest in what is now Thunder Bay, Ontario.

 Frances Anne Hopkins – Shooting the Rapids

The voyageurs of that day often paddled 16 hours a day and, often enough portaged the heavy freight canoes and all the goods they contained up and down steep, often wide trails, some as much as a mile or more wide. Many of the sturdy men in these boats were Kahnawakehrho:non (the people who live by the rapids). In those days everything needed to survive was produced by hand. Paddles, gunnels, the cutting fitting and root lacing of the rabaska ‘skins’ were all made by hand by Indigenous artisans and  voyageur alike. Finely wrought snowshoes, baskets and containers all required a high level of skill to make. These items were both beautiful and functional.

Closer to home, the Mohawk women of Kahnawake fashioned beautiful items from bags to mocassins, made of moose and deer hide and highly decorated with porcupine quillwork and later beadwork.

 Iroquois beaded and quilled mocassins.

This tradition of craftsmanship carries on up to this century with many of our women continuing to fashion beautiful traditional articles of clothing and adornment for ceremonial and everyday use. While the beginning of the 20th century saw many of our men enter the ironwork trade erecting the bridges and skyscrapers of New York City and beyond, across the height and  breadth of North America, there are still Mohawk men who make tools, baskets, canoes, cradleboards and even caskets with skill and artistry.

In my life’s journey I traveled with my family to the Mohawk enclaves of Brooklyn, N.Y. where I attended school and upon entering high school studied art at the High School of Art and Design and later at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. There, I haunted the museums of the city from the old Heye Foundation Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Natural History as well as all of the art museums and galleries from the Metropolitan downtown to the SoHo galleries.

Perhaps because one of my earliest recollections about art was of my mother sitting painting in oils at our table in the evenings after making beaded dolls, and washing dishes. I sat quietly and transfixed as the face of a Native woman appeared on her canvas panel, done entirely from her imagination. Something about seeing my mom, even then at 4 or 5 years of age struck me as magical. It was the smell of the linseed oil and paint. I attribute that act of hers as being seminal to my desire to one day become this creature people call an ‘artist.’ and why I have always gravitated to the portrayal of the human face and figure and most especially of my own people.

I believe all of this history, both personal and corporate, of my people has directed my steps as an artist and as a lover of my people’s history. I believe that all of my journey has figured its way into the development of the Peregrine Palette. Niawen kowa for sharing a moment with me. – Kakwirakeron Ross Montour  (To learn more about Peregrine Fine Art Products go to: )

www.peregrinepalettes.com 

Pt 2 to follow soon. The R&D of engineering the Peregrine Palette.

Portrait of Tassisiak Tuki Loft and the return of The Four Amigos

A while back (a week ago from last Thursday?) I got together in my studio with three Facebook buddies for a play/paint date. Having secured the model, Tuki Loft of Kahnawake, my three guests arrived for the first of hopefully will be an ongoing thing.  Other painters have that kind of sharing camaraderie – Richard Schmid’s Putney Painters group, Palette and Chisel. What I know is that it’s an awful nice change from toiling in silence alone. There is something to be said for solitude but once in a while…so back to the group I have seemed to have dubbed The Four Amigos. The last time we got together for a roughly 5 hour session with our model. As can be seen from the images posted last week on the blog my buddies are formidable artists. Of the four I was the least successful in my attempt to paint Tuki. After mulling it over I decided to get Tuki back for a quick photo shoot so I could rework the image. Basically I sanded down the original brush drawing I started that day. The drawing in of the shirt can still be seen.

Eric Mannella and I got together last week for the afternoon in my studio and we decided we would like to have a second sitting with Tuki. We also decided to see if the other guys Steven Rosati and Eduardo S. Fernandes wanted to join us. All being favorable we are set to pick up where we left off.  Those fellows are ready. I need to play catch up so I got a jumps start laying in my color. While it is a bit of a cheat, having re-worked my portrait working from a photograph I am unrepentant.

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While I made significant headway into the painting there is much to do later this morning (it’s now 2:34 a.m. my time). We will be starting at 10a.m. or thereabout. Hopefully I won’t be too out of it. I will need to restate the darks and work on the muzzle of the portrait but overall I am feeling pretty good about where I am. Here’s a close-up.

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I will post the outcome of today’s session later in the day or perhaps tomorrow. Thanks for looking, see you soon and have a great day! Onen ki Wahi (Until next we meet)

Selfie the hard way

A while back I posted the start of this self-portrait and between projects I have been returning and returning to the drawing to refine it as best I can. I was strongly motivated to get it as accurate as possible before painting. Doing a self-portrait from life is a far greater challenge than doing it from a photograph and harder than doing a portrait of another person. It is cheaper than paying a model  and that’s the big plus. I have gotten advice from my friend Eric Manella an excellent painter and teacher from Montreal (See Four Amigos post for more about Eric and his Atelier de Bresoles). 

I am feeling I am getting to the point where I will begin the painting process now for this old-school selfie. Stay tuned. Meantime the Four Amigos (maybe 3 of the 4) will be gathering again on Tuesday coming for another session with our model Tuki Loft. I will post our progress when we are done for the day. Thanks for looking!

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An Interlude: Paint Date with the Four Amigos

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Left-Right: Eric Mannella, Eduardo Fernandes, Steven Rosati and myself. Rapid Water Gallery Studio.

Last week I had the pleasure of painting in my studio with a group of Montreal area artists whose work I admire greatly. This get together came about via the magic of the social network, namely Facebook. Eric for sometime had been inviting me to come to his home base of Atelier de Bresoles in Montreal’s Old Port or suggesting he might get together with me in Kahnawake at my studio. This had been going on for maybe two years or more. Frankly I think so highly of him I was intimidated. Though I am loathe to admit it, I must. Still, Eric’s persistence paid off and I relented. I just couldn’t dodge him again. No telling when an invitation would be forthcoming again. And so it was that last Thursday, the deal struck, the model engaged ( Mr. Tassisiak Tuki Loft of Kahnawake) the first of what I hope will be many painting dates took place. I seem to have dubbed our group The Four Amigos.

Initially, I thought it would only be me and Eric getting together but then he asked if I’d mind if one of his students accompanied him. No problem. Then he said that one of his friends, Steven Rosati wanted in. I had been a follower of Steven’s amazing portrait and figurative work for some time and both he, Eric and I had been Facebook buddies for some time. Image

Tassisiak Tuki Loft posing in 18th century ruffled shirt, shell gorget and porcupine quilled knife. In the foreground is Steven Rosati’s drawing which he was soon to paint. Off to the right I am muddling along and getting nowhere fast. I at least look the part. Actually had I not been so nervous about being in the room with this talented group of guys I would have done better to have begun my own attempt as Steven did. No matter, there was much to share and learn. Eric is a consummate painter and teacher and along with his wife Alana Benham run one of the best atelier schools in the country. Both are graduates of the New York Academy of Art in NYC.Image

Eric deftly working his brush and paint in a wonderful demonstration of alla prima painting. Note how he places his colors directly on his panel. Mixing his colors directly on his panel allows Eric to  see his color in the same light as the painting without the stress of constantly bending over to a flat palette. Definitely a tip I will take to heart. Also worthy of noting, Eric, a recent father, works solvent-free using only linseed oil to thin his colors. He began by accessing the shadow and light patterns and mapping these out in umber thinned to the consistency of ink. At this stage of his portrait of Tuki, Eric had begun laying in his color notes.

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Eric’s completed portrait of our model Tuki Loft. Eric explained to me that he lays in a bit of background color around the head first then beginning the flesh tones he places a mosaic of colored strokes which he will build up while avoiding the temptation of ‘blending’ and thereby muddying his colors.

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In this close-up you can see the web of colored strokes making up Eric’s flesh tones. What this photo cannot adequately show is how the paint surface sparkles. Quite remarkable really.

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To Eric’s left is his student Eduardo Simoes Fernandes, an incredibly gifted artist who has been studying at Atelier de Bresoles (http://www.atelierdebresoles.com/ ) for the past year or two. Eduardo chose to forgo paint for graphite with his portrait of Tuki.

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Eduardo’s drawing skills are well honed. In the 5 hours available Eduardo produced a drawing with a high degree of finish. This is a testament to both the student and his teacher. A native of Brazil, Eduardo emigrated to Canada where he has been working in the burgeoning field of computer gaming graphics. His first real study of traditional drawing and painting has taken place at Eric and Alana’s atelier.

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Eduardo’s finished portrait of TassisiakTuki Loft.

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For award winning portrait and figurative painter Steven Rosati of Montreal, this drawing would have stood him well as a finished drawing but it was only a step along the way. Steven’s method for this piece was to paint the features in what some would call ‘window shade’ fashion. To witness it unfold was to watch a magic happen.

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Steven began with the eyes of Tuki’s portrait then work his way down subtly modelling and turning the form.

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This was the result of Steven’s efforts for the day. Steven’s painting surface was an oil primed linen panel – Claessens #13 portrait grade. He uses water miscible oil colors. Image

As for my own efforts, I can say that I struggled and my own results that day were not what I would consider on par with that of my friends. That is not to say my day was a waste or a write-off. For whatever reason I found myself floundering in my drawing with the brush…basically choking. Nevertheless, I am not so foolish as to not take advantage of Eric’s teaching ability. Eric was more than willing. In the end I decided to sand down the paint from my canvas to begin the portrait anew having engaged Tuki to come in for a quick photo shoot over the weekend. He will come in to sit for me again so that I can paint from life getting the color. Niawen kowa/ Thanks very much for your interest.

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Time for Self-Reflection

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It has been said that art mirrors life. It has also been said that honest self-reflection is good for both the psyche and the soul. I would argue against neither of those sentiments. I paint people. I am fascinated with people’s faces yet far too often I have felt the need to rely on photography as a tool but I would prefer painting from life. What to do when there are no models on hand clamoring to climb up onto the model’s stand? Self-reflection. Fact is I work cheap, plus I am available. I don’t know about anyone else but I find doing a self portrait is  a greater challenge than drawing or painting someone else, if for no other reason than the technical challenge of having to move back and forth between the mirror and the canvas. So very many things can run afoul of reality. Then there’s the plain fact that none of us knows how other humans ‘see’ us and all that most of us ever see of ourselves is the apparition in the mirror. “Is that how you see yourself” is a common enough reaction from others simply either because they will never really see others as others see themselves…or the self-portrait is a mess.  So doing a self portrait is a valuable exercise.

Psychologically and philosophically one may move through some interesting excursions on the road to painterly self actualization. I have done a number of self-portraits in my time, some good, others laughable. I once did a challenge on one of the art forums to do a drawing  a day. I chose to do a portrait a day. It was a January so I ended up doing 30 odd self-portraits in as many days culminating in two successive alla prima self-portraits.

A couple of days ago my friend Eric Manella, a wonderful Montreal based realist painter, posted the start of a self-portrait in oil. That and the fact that he in-boxed me an invitation to get together for a painters play date inspired me to begin a self-portrait of my own. I have a lovely little studio with a less than dead on north light skylight….let’s call it ‘north-ish’ light. I was feeling kind of tentative and so began by noodling around with doing my block-in in charcoal, not something I usually do. More often I would begin by doing the block in with brush and paint. The canvas is an oil-primed Russian linen I purchased online a while back which I had toned a neutral gray. Size is 16″x20″. Image

I am mainly interested in getting the big shapes correct at this point…light shapes vs. shadow shapes and working from general to specific I am probably not going to spend an inordinate amount of time on the drapery of the shirt because, while I will wear the same shirts throughout the painting process…the folds will likely move about. Since I don’t want to chase folds around every time I return to the canvas, I will wait to lock the drapery in at a time later than my ‘mug.’ A note about working in charcoal: it is easily mover around so therefore more easily corrected. I use my fingers, a kneaded eraser or a brush, even the flick of a chamois will work.

Thanks for stopping by to read. KRM

 

Painting ‘Speaker of Truth’

I had intended to present an abbreviated view of the process I used to paint ‘Speaker of Truth’ in my previous post. Then My thoughts took me elsewhere. So I thought I would revisit my original intention in this post. ‘Speaker of Truth’ was painted on a 10″x16″ Belgian portrait linen canvas which I triple primed with Rublev white lead ground. After transferring my drawing I executed the under-painting in raw umber. This basic division of labor in oil painting where one deals with drawing and the establishment of the values:

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As an artist I find that I am always looking to learn from others and to try different palettes for flesh painting.  I have used full palettes of up to fifteen or more colors. I would say these lean toward being open palettes. In this case I decided to explore a limited. lower chroma palette and to utilize value strings. For most of the painting I used a limited value string palette I discovered online on the blog of James Raczkowski. Here is the link to Raczkowski’s entry. I found that while it does take time to premix this kind of palette, Raczkowski’s explanation to be concise and easy to follow. Anyone who has ever tried Daniel Greene’s or Frank Covino’s controlled palette approach with be in familiar territory.

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http://jamesraczkowski.blogspot.ca/2012/01/how-to-mix-closed-pallet-for-painting.html

I started with the hand and background in the first pass given I had fresh value strings of flesh tones. It is surprising how effective your flesh tones can be made to appear with relatively low chroma colors. One really doesn’t need bright cadmium colors to achieve convincing flesh tones. In Raczkowski’s color recipe he used cadmium red, which I substituted with Genuine Chinese Vermillion by Michael Harding. which I related to the Zorn flesh  palette.

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Moving toward the final stages I over-painted the eagle feather as well as refined both the flesh and background tones. I introduced touches of king’s blue and violet gray in the upper portions. My intuition suggested the introduction of these bluish grays to imply that the journey toward the healing of spirit is a marriage of earth and sky/heavens…being grounded in the spirit. Niawen kowa/Much thanks for looking. You can see the complete painting in the previous entry and on my portfolio page. Thanks go out to James Raczkowski for sharing his knowledge and thereby being a part of this painting though he did not know he had. The blogosphere can be a wonderful place.

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